Back to Edinburgh: Canaletto, Highland Coos, & Guacamole
02.05.2018 - 12.05.2018
Edinburgh is a city I can return to again and again. Having begun my trip in the touristy old part of the city in Grassmarket, I decided to end it in the commercial, busier part. I stayed in the Ibis Styles just off St. Andrew Square close to Princes Street where all the main businesses are. Edinburgh is a compact city, so everything is within walking distance. If you are not a fan of hills or steps, you can easily reach old town and the Royal Mile by walking across the North Bridge. The hotel is also close to the train and public busses if you are going to travel out of town.
I was happy with my choice of the Ibis Styles and its quirky decor, free breakfast, and friendly staff. That was topped off by a free tea and coffee stand in the lobby as well as a cappuccino machine that was available all day, as were snacks and drinks at the cheery bar. An added bonus was the wallpaper in my room that featured my new best animal friend, the Highland Coo. I defy anyone to be in a bad mood who wakes up to this:
Edinburgh Castle overlooks the city. It is located at one end of The Royal Mile, high on a hill. Since I visited the castle on an earlier trip, I skipped it this time, but it is worth a visit to set the colorful guards outside, the views of the city, and the castle itself.
On the other end of the Royal Mile sits Holyrood Palace and the Queen's Gallery. The Queen's official residence in Edinburgh, Holyrood was also the home of Scottish royal history. The Queen has so many palaces it is easy to understand why many Brits think the monarchy is an unnecessary expense. When you learn the fraught history between England and Scotland, it is even easier to understand why there was a recent referendum to allow Scotland to become independent. The referendum failed, but there is talk about bringing back.
As luck would have it, one of my favorite artists was being featured at the Queen's Gallery which is across the street from the Palace. I have long loved the work of Canaletto. Years ago, it was his paintings of Venice that triggered my desire to see the magical city that floats. Venice is one of my favorite cities and the Canaletto show is a small gem. The exhibit is there until October. I recommend you buy tickets online and avoid a wait. By the way, the gift shop is FILLED with mementos of the royal wedding.
When you walk down the Royal Mile to the Queen's Gallery, you pass a myriad of touristy pubs, fish & chip stands, and souvenir shops, but you can also find some quirkier shops and some great, small cafes. There are more good eateries in Edinburgh than there is time to eat in them. Luscious on Canongate Road is one of those small, easy to miss places that has great, fresh food for reasonable prices.
If you love good food, which I do, the best part of staying on St. Andrew's Square was its proximity to Thistle Street which is restaurant row. There are restaurants and cafes at every price point and serving every ethnic food you can imagine. My favorite was El Cartel, a small taco-centric place with both a regular menu and a daily blackboard special. I had sweet potato tacos and the best guacamole I've ever tasted. I loved it so much, I recreated the recipe when I got home, which meant I needed to learn how to open a pomegranate. It was well the effort. Here are my pictures of El Cartel's guac and my recipe.
(Adapted from El Cartel)
2 ripe avocados
1/3 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 teaspoons lime juice, fresh or unsweetened
1 plum tomato
1-2 ounces queso cheese
1. Halve and scoop the avocados. Pulse the avocados, onion, cumin and lime juice in a food processor or mash well with a mortar and pestle until fairly smooth.
2. Cut the tomato in half. Scoop out the flesh and seeds and discard. Dice the rest.
3. Dice or shred the queso.
4. Remove the seeds from the pomegranate by scoring the skin and leaving in a large bowl of cold water for a few minutes. Then, open the pomegranate under water and remove the seeds. You will only need 1/3 cup of seeds so store the rest in the refrigerator or freeze them.
5. Gently stir the tomatoes, queso, & seeds into the guac and serve with your favorite dipping chips. Enjoy! Let me know what you think!